Minaret phone masts plan in Bahrain under review

The Sunni Waqf Directorate rejected the proposal

  

A proposal to allow telecom companies to place phone masts on minarets of mosques is under review despite authorities earlier shooting down the move by a council, it has emerged.

The GDN reported earlier this month that the Southern Municipal Council had unanimously approved the plan, saying it would move the unpopular masts away from residential areas while providing places of worship with an opportunity to generate funds.

The Sunni Waqf (Endowment) Directorate, however, rejected the proposal.

In a letter, discussed during the council’s meeting yesterday, Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf said the issue had been referred to Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa.

Acting chairman Abdullatif Mohammed said the directorate had failed to follow proper procedure.

“In this country we have a systematic way of addressing ideas and implementing them, but the Sunni Waqf flatly said it rejected the proposal on religious grounds,” he said.

“What are the religious grounds? And according to which fatwa is such a move banned? What are the other factors – technical, technological, field or social – hindering the implementation of the plan?

“We have done comprehensive research over two months and anything countering that should also be of the same strength.”

Council chairman Bader Al Tamimi was unable to chair yesterday’s meeting as he is in quarantine after being in close contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

The meeting was held remotely with each councillor in his office at the council’s headquarters in West Riffa.

“I have approached several Sunni and Shi’ite religious scholars and each one has said my proposal flouted no Islamic fatwas as, interestingly, only the Sunni Waqf Directorate claimed, not the Jaffari Waqf Directorate,” said Mr Al Tamimi.

“Phone masts have been placed at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, in religious shrines in Iraq, and even churches and other worship places.”

Mr Al Tamimi previously said the masts were scattered around neighbourhoods, inside homes, backyards or on top of apartments and commercial buildings, in a random manner, becoming an eyesore.

He said minarets are either separated from the main worship area or far away from where prayers are conducted. They are not used for anything except placing speakers used to issue the call to prayer.

The council has already received written consent from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

The suggestion created controversy when first proposed, with outraged worshippers suggesting the masts would ‘desecrate’ the holy sanctuaries.

Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed told MPs last year that the TRA was facing a telecom mast dilemma because some people wanted masts removed, while others demanded more masts to improve network coverage.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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